Thursday, January 19, 2012


Contemplating the reality of our move to London, I wonder what we'll miss about the American way of life. Besides the people, our dear friends, of course. I'm talking about the superficial and yet important things.

For starters, I know I'll miss the incredible service. The smiles, the unprompted provision of water, the professionalism. But then again, I won't miss tipping them 20%. On balance, I'm prepared to swap out amazing service at 20%, and in its place take indifferent service at 12.5%.

I will miss cornbread and biscuits (those fluffy scones). But I'm happy to swap those for Yorkshire puddings and proper scones (not those chewy Starbucks ones, I mean good ones like my mum makes).

I'll miss the abundance of perfect cocktail bars serving perfect Perfect Manhattans. The choice of ryes, too. But I'll gladly trade them for a good honest London boozer serving proper, room temperature bitter and cheap Spanish plonk. And if I ever miss table service I'll just upgrade to a hotel bar and imagine I'm back in Manhattan.

I'll miss the subway. Well, not the dank, dirtiness of it. Nor the confusing routes, all those trains that go on the same track but don't stop at the same stations. Grr.  But the cheapness. A week's subway pass costs $29 (£20)... the London equivalent is more than twice that. Not a good swap. You can keep your shiny new stations and your fast and frequent services... I'd rather pay half as much, frankly.

Mind you that brings me to another swap. I'll get my bike back. AND a bus system I am not intimidated by. That's not even a swap, it's a bonus. As well as walking, catching cabs and taking the tube, I can cycle around and hop on and off buses. Hurrah for Transport for London!

The dry cleaner and the mani/pedi places here are really very good. The shirts always look new, and I love being able to walk into one of five places within a couple of blocks of us and get a cheap, fast nail job. But... my old dry cleaner in Kentish Town, who smelt a bit, was always so smiley and friendly. And cheap. And the mani/pedi place next door, with the overly aggressive massage chair (so violent it almost pushes you out) and out-of-date copies of Now! magazine, well, I did go there once a month for about 7 years. I wonder if they'll remember me. I'm happy to swap back, pay a little more, but feel at home again fighting that crazy chair.

I don't think I'll miss the fancy coffee shops. They were wasted on me, frankly. I'm looking forward to getting back to a country where normal, proper tea is not labelled like some exotic item:
(Presumably in the supermarkets of Chelsea and St John's Wood, to cater for the US expats, they have boxes of lame-ass weak tea labelled 'American blend'?)

All in all, for everything I know I'll miss, there's something I'll gain. Yup, still pretty excited to be heading home...

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